Sunday, 26th May, Newcastle Water, Sturt Plains.
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Fifth Expedition
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Sunday, 26th May, Newcastle Water, Sturt Plains. This morning we were visited by seven natives, tall, powerfully-made fellows. At first they seemed inclined for mischief, making all manner of gestures and shaking their boomerangs, waddies, etc. We made friendly signs to them, inviting them to come nearer; they gradually approached, and Kekwick and Lawrence got quite close to them; in a short time they appeared to be quite friendly. I felt alarmed for the safety of J. Woodforde (who had gone down the water in search of ducks, and in the direction from which they had come), and endeavoured to make them friends by giving them pieces of handkerchiefs, etc. During the time we were talking with them I heard the distant report of his gun; at the same time Thring and Masters returned from collecting the horses that were missing. I told them to remain until the natives were gone, as I wished to keep them as long as possible to give Woodforde a chance of coming up before they left us; shortly afterwards they went off apparently quite friendly. Sent Thring and Wall to round up the horses which were close at hand, and while they were doing so the natives again returned, running quite close up to the camp and setting fire to the grass. It was now evident they meant mischief. I think they must have seen or heard Woodforde, and have lit the grass in order to engage our attention from him. I felt very much inclined to fire upon them, but desisted, as I feared they would revenge themselves on him in their retreat. They did very little injury by their fire, which we succeeded in putting out. By signs I ordered them to be off, and after much bother they left us, setting fire to the grass as they went along. I now ordered Thring and Wall to go with all speed to protect Woodforde. In about twenty minutes he came into the camp. After leaving us they had attacked him, throwing several boomerangs and waddies at him; he had only one barrel of his gun loaded with shot; they all spread out and surrounded him, gradually approaching from all sides. One fellow got within five yards of him, and was in the act of aiming his boomerang at him. Seeing it was useless to withhold any longer, while the black was in the act of throwing he gave him the contents of his gun in his face, and made for the camp. In a short time Thring and Wall returned at full speed; they had passed where he was, and hearing the report of his gun, made for the place, overtook the blacks, gave chase and made them drop the powder-flask and ducks (which Woodforde had laid down before firing when they attacked him); knowing them to be his, they gave up the chase to look for him, but seeing nothing of him, and two of the natives supporting one apparently wounded, they returned to the camp, where they saw him all safe, relating his adventure, his shot-belt still missing. I sent Thring and him to look for it, and to bring up the missing horses which they had seen. Wind variable. Cloudy.